Springfield Armory XD-M Elite Is a Solid Option x2
Promotional Consideration Provided by Springfield Armory
Springfield Armory has had their legacy XD line for quite some time now, and it has become one of the most popular lines of handguns on the market, available in a variety of sizes for various applications, from open carry large frame to the compact version for concealed carry. While there are slight differences among them, they are largely the same gun from model to model. Next came the XD-M line chambered in either 10mm or .45ACP set on a slightly larger platform.
For 2020, Springfield introduced the XD-M Elite at SHOT Show. The Elite part means two things. First, it comes in the more universal 9mm, and second, it features a few upgrades over the older XD-M.
The most obvious upgrade to the Elite is it comes in two different barrel lengths: 3.8” and 4.5”. The original XD-M only comes in the longer barrel and a specialized 5.25” version for competitive shooters. There is no short-barrel option.
For my review, Springfield sent me both the short and long barrel versions to test out side by side. The first thing I noticed was that the frames of both guns are identical, similar to the new Sig Sauer M17 and M18 that won the military’s modular handgun contract. The only difference between the Elite models is the barrel length. I could have switched the frames and not known the difference. With that in mind, let’s run through the features that are found on both models before we get to the few differences.
Right out of the box, I noticed the large grips on both guns. Not only are they longer than most to accommodate the 20-round magazines (it comes with two), they are thick for maximum grip. Even the smallest of the three included backstraps is large enough for most hands. The large grips – especially the extra length – proved valuable on the range, making recoil management a breeze.
The Elite carries over a lot of the original XD-M characteristics, such as aggressive slide serrations on front and back, highly visible U sight in rear with a red fiber optic front, visible striker position indicator so you know when the striker is cocked, and truly ambidextrous controls that don’t require any modifications or flipping. If red is not your color, Springfield includes a piece of green filament for a DIY sight color swap, instructions included. The ambi mag release comes from the spring inside the grip being positioned in the middle of the mag well instead of to the side, which we typically find in semi-autos. This allows for true lefty or righty operation without moving the button. The slide stop is also duplicated on the left side out of the box. Only the takedown lever is left side only, but you normally don’t need that to be on both sides anyway.
For safety, Springfield installed an integrated trigger safety, an internal drop safety, and an upgrade to their signature grip safety with a tactile bump on the bottom so you know you have it pushed in and are ready to fire. I’ve never been a big fan of this 1911-style system, but it’s common across most of Springfield’s pistol line, so fans will feel right at home. At first, I thought the extra bump would be annoying, but as soon as I started shooting, I forgot all about it. Truth be told, I didn’t even really think much about the entire grip safety system once I pointed downrange and pulled the trigger.
Speaking of firing, the XD-M Elite comes with two 20-round magazines, a significant capacity advantage over a lot of other full-size guns. Between the three of us at the range, we shot over 400 rounds through both the 3.8” and 4.5” barrels with zero malfunctions, using both Fiocchi 116 grain FMJ and Black Hills 124 grain JHP+P rounds. Both guns chewed through mags full of ammo with no issues.
Typical of brand-new guns, the mag springs were a bit stiff at first, making stuffing rounds a bit of a chore, but after a few reloads, they loosened up and we were filling them almost to the top before needing any mechanical assistance.
Because the 3.8” and 4.5” versions share the same frame, they both include a short Picatinny rail for lights and lasers, three sizes of interchangeable backstraps for a custom fit, and a flared mag well for easy mag changes. This upgrade lived up to the hype. I shoot IDPA on the side and am always trying to improve my time any way possible, including faster mag changes. Thanks to the flare, my mag changes were quick and seamless, the top of the mag finding the opening faster and more accurately than other guns I’ve shot. Slamming it home was rock solid. Even on a full chamber, the mag stuck on the first try every time.
As for shooting, both models of the Elite ran like a champ. Neither gun had a single malfunction or misfire over nearly 800 rounds. A few times, the slide on each failed to lock open, but I diagnosed that as my thumb running the slide stop instead of letting it do its job. Once I adjusted my grip slightly, the slide locked open on every empty chamber.
Both guns shot very flat, with minimal felt recoil thanks to the weight and the grips. The longer barrel shot flatter because of the extra weight on the nose, yet both versions were equally accurate despite the over half-inch difference. The grip texture was not too aggressive but aggressive enough to maintain good control, and the red fiber optic front sight stood out for easy target acquisition.
While my overall impression of the XD-M Elite is highly favorable in many ways – it’s a really nice shooting gun – two things bugged me about it. First, there should be an OSP option on the civilian version. The Tactical version (not reviewed here) comes with a slide plate, but the “normal” version does not. Even the smaller cousin Hellcat has an OSP option. With the “Elite” moniker, this gun should, too. Second, Springfield touts this as “CCW-ready package” on their website, but I disagree. While it’s a great gun that performs well, it would be extremely difficult to conceal for two reasons: it’s too bulky, at almost an inch and a half wide, and the extra-long grip and print-happy flare magwell will likely stick out too much in either appendix or strongside without a bulky jacket. Springfield already has a pure conceal gun in the Hellcat, a micro compact that easy stows under even the lightest cover garment. While it’s technically possible to conceal carry an XD-M Elite, it’s not the best option for job.
Overall, the Springfield Armory XD-M Elite is a great gun. In fact, I liked it so much, the longer barrel version might just become a permanent fixture in my gun safe. It’s reliable, fun to shoot, and priced below a lot of its competition. And you can’t beat the capacity right out of the box. ~ David
David is an avid gun guy and a contributing writer to several major gun publications. In addition to being an NRA-certified RSO, David trains
new shooters on basic handgun skills and CCW requirements and is a strong advocate for training as much as you possibly can. "Real life shootouts don't happen at a box range."